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and was executed at Tyburn in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in conformity with a law, which even the persistent plottings of too many of these at once against the life of the Sovereign and the life of the State must altogether fail to justify or excuse.
P. 44, No. xlvi.—The judgment of one great poet on another his contemporary, must always have a true interest for us, and it was with serious regret that I omitted Ben Jonson's ever-memorable lines on Shakespeare. Many things a contemporary sees, as none who belong to a later time can see them; knows, as none other can know; and even where he does not tell us much which we greatly care to learn about the other, he is sure to tell us something, whether he means it or not, about himself and about his age. English literature possesses many judgments of this kind. What Ben Jonson did for Shakespeare, Cartwright, a strong-thoughted writer if not an eminent poet, and more briefly Cleveland here, have done in turn for Jonson ; Denham for Cowley; Cowley for Crashaw; Carew for Donne ; Marvell for Milton; Dryden for Oldham. There is not one of these which may not be read with profit by the careful student of English literature; and certainly Cleveland must be allowed very happily to have seized here some of the main excellences of Jonson.
P. 45, No. xlvii.—Another poem on the same subject, in Byrd's Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs, is as a whole inferior to this, but yields one stanza which is equal in merit to any here:
'I wish but what I have at will;
P. 46, No. xlix.-Shakespeare's Sonnets are so heavily laden with meaning, so double-shotted, if one may so speak, with thought, so penetrated and pervaded with a repressed passion, that, packed as all this is into narrowest limits, it sometimes imparts no little obscurity to them; and they often require to be heard or read not once but many times, in fact to be studied, before they reveal to us all the treasures of thought and feeling which they contain. It is eminently so with this one. The subject, the bitter delusion of all sinful pleasures, the reaction of a swift remorse which inevitably dogs them, Shakespeare must have most deeply felt, as he has expressed himself upon it most profoundly. I know no picture of this at all so terrible in its truth as in The Rape of Lucrece the description of Tarquin after he has successfully wrought his deed of shame. But this sonnet on the same theme is worthy to stand by its side.
P. 48, No. lii.-These lines are appended to the second edition of Wastell's Microbiblion, 1629; they are not found in the first,
published under another title in 1623. I have not disturbed the ascription of them to him, although, considering the general worthlessness of the book, it must be considered very doubtful indeed. On the question of the authorship of these lines see Hannah, Poems and Psalms of Henry King, 1843, p. cxviii.
P. 57, No. Ixii.-There are at least half-a-dozen texts of this poem with an infinite variety of readings, these being particularly numerous in the third stanza, which I must needs think corrupt as it now stands. The Reliquia Wottoniana, in which it was first published, appeared in 1651, some twelve years after Wotton's death; but much earlier MS. copies are in existence; thus one in the handwriting of Edward Alleyn, apparently of date 1616. Ben Jonson visited Drummond of Hawthornden two or three years later, and is reported by him to have had these lines by heart.
P. 58, No. lxiii.—This poem Bishop Percy believes to have been first printed in a volume of Miscellaneous Poems by different hands, published by David Lewis, 1726. The date and authorship is discussed on several occasions in Notes and Queries, vol. iii. (1st Series) pp. 27, 108, 155, but without much light being thrown upon either.
P. 60, No. lxv.-Carew is commonly grouped with Waller, and subordinated to him. He is indeed immensely his superior. Waller never wrote a love-song in grace and fancy to compare with this; while in many of Carew's lighter pieces there is an underlying vein of earnestness, which is wholly wanting in the other.
P. 62, No. lxviii.-Waller's fame has sadly, but not undeservedly, declined since the time when it used to be taken for granted that he had virtually invented English poetry, or one might almost say, the English language; since an editor of his poems (1690) could write that his was 'a name that carries everything in it that is either great or graceful in poetry. He was indeed the parent of English verse, and the first that showed us our tongue had beauty and numbers in it. The tongue came into his hands like a rough diamond; he polished it first, and to that degree that all artists since him have admired the workmanship without pretending to mend it.' Compare the twenty-two lines devoted to him in Addison's Account of the greatest English Poets, which includes Congreve, but not Shakespeare! For myself, I confess that I did not find it very easy to select from the whole range of his poems one which I much cared to quote. He appears in this to have had in his eye the graceful epigram of Rufinus beginning,
Πέμπω σοι, Ροδόκλεια, τόδε στέφος,
and ending with these lines,
ταῦτα στεψαμένη, λῆξον μεγάλαυχος ἐοῦσα,
P. 63, No. lxx.-Castara, to whom these beautiful lines are addressed, was a daughter of William Herbert, first Lord Percy, and either was already, or afterwards became, the wife of the poet. There are no purer and few more graceful records of a noble attachment than that which is contained in the poems to which Habington has given the name of the lady of his happy love. Phillips, writing in 1675, says, 'His poems are now almost forgotten.' How little they deserved this, how finished at times his versification was, lines such as the following-they are the first stanza of a poem for which I could not find room-will abundantly prove. It is headed, Against them who lay Unchastity to the sex of Women.
"They meet with but unwholesome springs,
And summers which infectious are,
Who ever dare
Affirm no woman chaste and fair.'
P. 76, No. lxxviii.-Milton's English Sonnets are only seventeen in all :
'Soul-animating strains, alas! too few.'
They are so far beyond all doubt the greatest in the language that it is a matter of curious interest to note the utter incapacity of Johnson to recognize any greatness in them at all. The utmost which he will allow is that three of them are not bad;' and he and Hannah More once set themselves to investigate the causes of their badness, the badness itself being taken for granted. Johnson's explanation of this contains an illustration lively enough to be worth quoting: 'Why, Madam,' he said, 'Milton's was a genius that could hew a Colossus out of a rock, but could not carve heads on cherry-stones.'
P. 76, No. lxxix.--I have obtained room for these lines by excluding another very beautiful poem by the same author, his Song of the Emigrants in Bermuda. To this I was moved in part by the fact that the Song has found its way into many modern collections; these lines, so far as I know, into none; in part by my conviction that we have here a poem which, though less popular than the Song, is of a still higher mood. If after this praise, these lines should, at the first perusal, disappoint a thoughtful reader, I would ask him to read them a second time, and, if needful, a third. Sooner or later they will reveal the depth and riches of meaning which under their unpretending forms lie concealed.
P. 78, No. lxxx.-This poem will acquire a profound interest, for those at least who count there is something better in the world than Art, when we read it in the light of the fact mentioned by Lord Clarendon in his History of the Rebellion about its author,
namely, that' after fifty years spent with less severity and exactness than it ought to have been, he died with the greatest remorse for that license, and the greatest manifestations of Christianity that his best friends could desire;' so that in the end the hope which he ventures here timidly to utter was fulfilled, and one thorn 'from the dry leafless trunk on Golgotha' did prove to him more precious 'than all the flourishing wreaths by laureates worn.'
P. 82, No. lxxxiv., 1. 8: Campbell has transferred 'the world's gray fathers' into his poem on the Rainbow; but has no more to say for the author of these exquisite lines and of three other poems as perfect in form as in spirit which enrich this volume than this, 'He is one of the harshest even of the inferior order of the school of conceit, but he has some few scattered thoughts that meet our eye amid his harsh pages, like wild flowers on a barren heath.'
P. 83, No. lxxxv. 1. 133, 134: These lines are very perplexing. Milton's lines on Shakespeare abundantly attest that the true character of the greatness of England's greatest poet rose distinct and clear before the mind of him who in greatness approached him the nearest. But in this couplet can we trace any sense of the same discernment? Fancy's child' may pass, seeing that fancy' and ‘imagination' were not effectually desynonymized when Milton wrote; nay, 'fancy' was for him the greater name (see Paradise Lost, v. 100-113). 'Sweetest' Shakespeare undoubtedly was, but then the sweetness is so drawn up into the power, that this is about the last epithet one would be disposed to use about him. And then what could Milton possibly have intended by his native woodnotes wild'the sort of praise which might be bestowed, though with no eminent fulness, upon Clare, or a poet of his rank. The Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It are perhaps the most idyllic of his plays; but the perfect art controlling at every step the prodigality of nature, in these as in all his works, takes away all fitness from language such as this, and I can only wonder that of all the commentators on Milton not one has cared to explain to us what the poet here meant.
P. 87, No. lxxxvi. 1. 18: Memnon, king of Ethiopia (nigri Memnonis arma, Virgil), who according to the cyclic poets was slain before the walls of Troy by Achilles, is described in the Odyssey, xi. 522, as the most beautiful of the warriors there. A sister of his might therefore be presumed to be beautiful no less. Milton did not, as some say, invent the sister. Mention is made of her, her name is Hemera ('Huépa), in Dictys Cretensis. It is she who pays the last honours to the ashes of her brother.-1. 19: Cassiopeia, 'starred' as having been translated into the heaven, and become a constellation there. She offended the Nereids by contesting the prize of beauty with them. Milton concludes that as an Ethiopian she was
black, but this is nowhere said.-1. 108-115: Milton does not introduce Chaucer in his Allegro, but in his Penseroso; seeing in him something beside the merry bard,' which is all that Addison can see in the most pathetic poet in the English language.—l. 116–120: Spenser is here alluded to, of course- our sage and serious poet, Spenser,' as Milton loved to call him. Contrast his judgment of Spenser's allegory, as being something
'Where more is meant than meets the ear;'
'The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
P. 92, No. lxxvii.-Wordsworth in the Preface to an early edition of his works calls attention to Cotton's well-nigh forgotten poetry, some of it abundantly deserving the oblivion into which it has fallen, but some of a very rare excellence in its kind. This he does, quoting largely from his Ode to Winter, mainly with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between fancy, of which these poems, in his judgment, have much, and imagination, of which they have little or none. They have a merit which certainly strikes mé more than any singular wealth of fancy which I can find in them; and which to Wordsworth also must have constituted their chief attraction, namely, the admirable English in which they are written. They are sometimes prosaic, sometimes blemished by more serious faults; but for homely vigour and purity of language, for the total absence of any attempt to conceal the deficiency of strong and high imagination by a false poetic diction-purple rags torn from other men's garments, and sewn upon his own-he may take his place among the foremost masters of the tongue. Coleridge has said as much (Biographia Literaria, vol. ii. p. 96): 'There are not a few poems in that volume [the works of Cotton] replete with every excellence of thought, image, and passion which we expect or desire in the poetry of the milder Muse, and yet so worded that the reader sees no reason either in the selection or the order of the words why he may not have said the very same in an appropriate conversation, and cannot conceive how indeed he could have expressed such thoughts otherwise, without loss or injury to his meaning.' I will add that this poem is drawn out to too great a length for its own interests, or for my limited space; and several stanzas toward the close have been omitted.
P. 95, No. lxxxviii.-Johnson has justly praised the unequalled fertility of invention' displayed in this poem, and in its pendant, Against Hope. To estimate all the wonder of them, they should be read each in the light of the other. In some lines of wretched criticism, which Addison has called An Account of the greatest English Poets, there is one exception to the shallowness or falseness